By Julie Ross
There’s a new man in town—or at least, in the superintendent’s office of the Livingston Public Schools (LPS). That man is Jim O’Neill, LPS’
recently named Interim Superintendent of Livingston Public Schools.
The Livingston Board of Education approved O’Neill’s appointment at its August 15 meeting.
O’Neill replaces Christina Steffner, who tendered her resignation
effective July 31 after two years of service to the district. However, he is no stranger to the LPS, having served the district as interim
superintendent during the 2014-2015 school year. In addition to his
knowledge of the district, its students and its stakeholders, O’Neill has 40 years of experience in education under his belt. He has served as a principal and a teacher in New Jersey schools and was superintendent of Chatham Public Schools for eight years prior to his retirement in 2011.
Following his retirement, O’Neill became interim superintendent of
Roxbury Public Schools, a position he held for one year. He then
accepted the position of interim superintendent of West Orange Public Schools, with two years of service in that capacity.
While O’Neill’s has sat in the interim superintendent’s chair of several
school districts during these past few years, his position and perspective on the job, as well as on wishes for children’s success on the part of teachers, administrators, and board of education members, haven’t changed. And in his eyes, he added, school districts are among the very few places where stakeholders all have the same goal.
“Every parent wants their child to succeed,” he said. “Every teacher
wants the child to succeed. School administrators want their schools to succeed, and board members get involved because they want the kids to succeed. In the midst of that, there is the greatest unifying feeling. I’m hopeful that during the coming year, this central cause becomes obvious to kids as they live through it, and to parents as they experience it through their kids, and that teachers get the reward that comes from being in that kind of community.”
Livingston Board of Education President Pam Chirls credited O’Neill
with having effected positive changes in the LPS during his previous tenure as interim superintendent, including spearheading organizational changes; hiring qualified principals and supervisors; improving core curriculum programs; and starting the now three-year-old 1:1 initiative, in which LPS students in grades 7 through 12 are issued district-owned computing devices for their use throughout the school year. She noted that she expects more of the same from O’Neill—looking at the status of the LPS, discussing goals with stakeholders, and making fair-minded, informed, always student-centered decisions because he “doesn’t know how to be an interim superintendent;” he only knows how to function as a permanent superintendent.
Members of the LPS community displayed a positive reaction to the
news of O’Neill’s appointment when it was posted on the LPS Facebook page shortly after the August 15 meeting. One individual who commented on the post characterized the appointment as “wonderful.”
Another deemed O’Neill a “great choice” for the position, and a third
stated that “Livingston is lucky” to have O’Neill in the interim superintendent’s post.
“Make him stay for good,” a fourth Facebook poster urged.
O’Neill’s tenure as interim superintendent began on Sept. 1 and will run through June 30, 2019. During that time, he will work with the
Livingston Board of Education and LPS administration to identify
candidates for and hire a permanent superintendent of schools for the district.
By Julie Ross